FMS 8th Grade ELA Classes

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Why I love teaching


I know this will sound so cliche’, but I really love my job. I get to spend my days learning with teens who have such an amazing perspective and constantly remind me to keep grounded. I have been teaching for nearly 30 years, and every year it is always different in the best ways. This year, I have renewed the blog with my students because I truly believe they need to read and write in authentic ways…and those are very different from when I first began. I have also renewed my commitment to independent reading and writing because I would waver so much last year between teacher directed assignments and their free writing, but the best stuff always came from their free choice. Don’t think that means I get off easy – I think it is actually much more challenging to teach this way because it means I have 51 different projects going at once and I have to create mini-lessons that meet their needs on a more global level, but the rewards outweigh the work. When we spend our time, letting the kids reach for the stars and dig deep to think critically, it reflects the best of humanity. I don’t mind spending hours (and it is hours) setting up my room, creating lessons, or reviewing student work. Of course, ask me again in a month and then remind me why I need to be determined to stick to my convictions and to the research. Speaking of research, I need to cut this short because I have to go work on my research for my dissertation literature review. #learningneverends

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Welcome to the 2017 – 2018 School Year


Welcome to 8th grade Fieldcrest Middle School Language Arts. I am so excited to have the privilege to be your teacher this year. I know we are going to engage in deep reading, thoughtful writing, and critical thinking.

Meet Mrs. K

My name is Mrs. Koudelka. I have taught 7th and 8th grade Language Arts for the last 5 years at FMS. Prior to that I taught Special Education at the High School and at the Primary building, so this is the beginning of my 16th year in the district. Before coming to Fieldcrest, I taught a variety of grades since my husband and I moved to the Illinois Valley 28 years ago. (Yep, I am really old!) I have also taught for the Reading Specialist Master’s program for Aurora University since 2011. I hold a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education with Special Education Endorsement from Northern Illinois University, a Master’s in Administration from Illinois State University, and a Master’s in Reading from Aurora University. I am currently working on my Doctorate through Judson University. What this means is simply that I love reading and learning. I also love teaching both children and adults which is why I have also given many presentations at local, national, and international conferences. Although my current workload is keeping me busy, I do try to read something for pleasure (which usually means Young Adult novels) everyday.  I truly believe that books and reading can save lives and make the world a better place which is why we spend a lot of time reading and responding to text in our classroom. I also believe that students should drive their own learning, so if you come into our classroom, you will find kids sitting where they are comfortable and reading books of their choosing or writing on topics or in styles that they select. We will experiment with some texts and writing together, but the majority of their work will be self-selected.

Of course, I can’t fill my entire life with reading and writing (well, I could…), so when I am not buried in a book, you can usually find me on the bicycle trail, at a rock concert (I love classic punk and rock as well as alternative), or at my youngest son’s hockey games. I have three children; Bethany is 27 and lives in Chicago working as a figure skating coach/park district customer service manager, AJ is 26 and a pharmacist in Zion, and Easton is 15. He attends L-P High School and plays travel hockey for the Joliet Jaguars.

Supplies for Class

You will need your Chromebook (make sure it is charged!) as well as paper, pencils, sticky notes, and of course your independent reading book every day. I have purchased composition books for you that we will keep in the classroom and use as your literacy notebook. It will be the place in which you keep track of your reading and writing as well as a place to journal, respond, and experiment with writing. I do have supplies in the room that you may borrow. Please make sure that if you use supplies from the community center, that you return them so they are available for anyone in need. I also have nearly 2,000 books in my classroom library. I encourage you to check out books from me (using our Booksource app on the IPad). Please take care of these books as if they are your own so we can share them with many students for years to come. If you are looking for a particular book or style, make sure to add it to our Wish List. I often use that list when I attend conferences or purchase additional books throughout the year.

Class Format

We use a workshop format for the class. This means that the majority of the class time is spent with students independently reading and writing while I meet individually with them to conference and help them grow their skills. We will have mini-lessons that may encompass a variety of skills using shared books, articles, picture books, or multi-modal texts. We are returning to using blogging (I took a year off, and I missed it terribly) so you will find many of their finished pieces on their student blog.

Units of Study

* *Unit 1: Living a Literate Life (Weeks 1 – 3)
Narrative Writing; Independent Reading
* *Unit 2: Who I Am, Who I Want To Be (Weeks 4 – 9)
Narrative Writing; Book Clubs; I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Anchor Text
* *Unit 3: Literacy in the World of Work (Weeks 10 – 13)
Evidence Based Persuasive Writing & Campaigning; Global Read Aloud
* *Unit 4: My Role in the Community – With Rights, Come Responsibilities (Weeks 14 – 18)
Argumentative Writing; Book Clubs; Video Production, Digital Storytelling; Portfolio Review
* *Unit 5: Living Like Researchers(Weeks 19 – 21)
Building Research Skills; A Long Walk To Water Anchor Text
* *Unit 6: My Role in Society – Building Global Relationships (Week 22 – 27)
Research Project and Presentations
* *Unit 7: My Role in the World – Exploring Ethics and Power Structures (Weeks 28– 31)
Multi-Genre Writing; Book Clubs; Debating
* *Unit 8: My Role in the World – Listen, Learn, and Lead (Weeks 32– 36)
Drama; Independent Reading; Portfolio Development

* Independent Reading/Writing Opportunities, Public Speaking, & Collaborative Discussions occur in every unit!



I am going to be piloting a “gradeless” classroom this year to help you focus on a growth mindset and mastery of skills.  However, since there isn’t a compatible way to record this into our grading program, I will plug-in participation points (based on our conversation calendars) in Lumen. You will have a reading/writing portfolio log in your notebook that will help you keep track of your work as well as a digital portfolio in your Google Drive. I will enter an assessment update every 3 weeks (based on the pieces you choose to have me formally evaluate) and we will conference to determine the final grade you have earned for the quarter.  This may be a very different method of assessment, but don’t be nervous – it actually means that the “grade” you end up getting is actually personalized to you and you have the opportunity to redo, rewrite, and determine how you want your learning to look.  Moving away from arbitrary grades is supported by research that shows greater depth of learning and growth when students are given the opportunity to reflect on his/her own learning and are working towards mastery goals. Please feel free to contact me if you would like more information about our assessment plan.

Standards Based Score Description Grade Book Conversion


No Evidence



– Work not submitted or is incomplete

-Does not meet criterion standards

0 – 64


Little Evidence

Student STATES

-Recalls information & prior knowledge

-Work indicates gap in basic level of understanding

-Needs guidance to complete tasks

-Unable to communicate understanding or reflection

65 – 73


Developing Evidence


-Summarizes information & connects to prior knowledge

-Basic understanding in familiar learning settings

-Needs guidance in connecting to new knowledge or content

-Communicates a surface level of understanding & reflection

74 – 82


Proficient Evidence


-Analyzes information & uses prior knowledge to build connections

-Generalizes understanding across learning settings

-Independently connects to new knowledge or content

-Communicates & supports understanding & incorporates evidence – based reflection

83 – 96


Mastery Evidence


-Analyzes & synthesizes information to create new pathways & connections

-Generalizes understanding across multiple authentic settings

-Independently & consistently creates connections with multiple representations

-Communicates & supports in-depth understanding & insightful reflection

97 – 100

Students: Once you have read this blog: fill out the survey from this link:


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